Small Farm Ingenuity


Robert PekelThe morning at Foundation Farm was enlightening, and just plain fun. Foundation Farm is an incredibly productive, profitable, and low maintenance farm that lies on the Arkansas — Missouri border north of Eureka Springs, owned and operated by Patrice Gros. I had listened to Patrice’s presentation at the Midwest Winter Production Conference in Joplin this January. His no till farming immediately caught my attention. His system was so simple and appealing it was difficult to believe, but Patrice extended a gracious invitation to visit his farm to reassure doubters. I decided to take him up on the offer.

The drive to Eureka Springs was an adventure in itself. The highway twisted and turned, up and down through the rugged Ozark hills. Cliffs dropping hundreds of feet were to my right, a rock wall to my left and no shoulder meant zero margin for error. Anyway, I arrived safely at Foundation Farm just as Patrice and his farm hand, Nazar, pulled up. We were greeted by Patrice’s’ two friendly farm dogs that live at the farm and protect the crops from deer.

 Nazar spreading rabbit manure

Patrice started the day by having Nazar prepare the 4 by 100 foot beds with rabbit manure. Patrice has a friendly, easy to be with manner makes him fun to be with. “It’s all in the soil,” Patrice emphasized. “Healthy soil is essential to maximum production as well as disease and pest resistance. Just as a healthy body with a strong immunity system wards off sickness, healthy plants do the same. Healthy soil means healthy plants,” he explained as he brushed back the straw mulch to expose the rich, organic soil beneath. “See the earthworms, worms are good. Rototilling destroys worms and the infrastructure of the soil,” stated Patrice “We do no rototilling at all.”

Next we headed for the high tunnels. A high tunnel is Quonset-like structure covered with polyethylene that keeps cole crops in prime condition for harvesting through the winter months. The rows of mature, Red Russian Kale, Bak Choy, lettuce, spinach, and cilantro that filled his high tunnels were a sight to behold. Patrice wasted no time or motion as he checked his crops. He explained the various aspects of his system while momentarily pausing to talk to his plants. He would praise some plants for growing well, or scold others to encourage improvement.

 Patrice checking the crops

2/6/2016 8:25:36 AM

Robert, sounds like the Foundation Farm trip was great in many ways. Sixty hours a week total maintenance is incredible for such an operation. I'm going to track the amount of time I spend at my garden this year. In my case much of the time is spent talking to neighbors that just stop by for a chat or just have lunch and enjoying the garden activity from birds and animals. I'd say that over half the time spent at the garden is just enjoying the garden rather than working the garden. I try to be as much of a no till gardener as I can but I still have to fluff up the soil a bit with a spade. I started my garden with a sticky rich black soil. Over the last four years I've put over a 1000 bags of Fall grass/leaf mixture into the garden beds. Now the soil is rich, black, and fluffy. Other than the very first time, there's not been a motorized machine in the garden. Well, except for the week wacker in the pathways. ***** Have a great no till garden planning day.

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